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Editor, The Tribune
May 20, 2004
Your Friday editorial, "Weakest link" was astounding to me. "The responsible budgets offered by Gov. Napolitano and the Arizona Senate", you have got to be kidding! When we are STILL addressing a huge deficit, you believe it is responsible to go further into debt? You then referred to expanding all-day kindergarten as the cornerstone of the Governor's budget and that the Senate should settle for nothing less. How can we, as state legislators, after swearing to uphold the Arizona Constitution (which means we take an OATH to balance the budget and not spend more then the revenues that the state collects), even consider full-day kindergarten without a dedicated funding stream? Our general fund is depleted, we do not even have the money to increase the programs that are already in place much less begin a new one.
Now we have this "new" idea that has been hatched by the Governor and the those legislators that believe money grows on trees in Arizona; full day kindergarten . Stuffing active, little bodies into a structured, five-day-a-week school routine is just the ticket.
Boys are especially affected by an early structured school environment because they develop slower than girls. This type of situation can frustrate and depress them, producing rebellious, even bullying behavior, not to mention a dislike for learning.
There is a report from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development that demonstrates the correlation between the incidence and severity of stress and behavioral problems in children spending long hours in daycare. The same conclusions were reached in a study from the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota. The use of tranquilizers such as Ritalin to force boys and increasingly girls, too, to endure this endlessly structured environment is a terrible national scandal.
Full-day kindergarten is not a "new" idea. Today's children do not have less ability to learn than children of any other period of history. What has radically changed and been restructured is the content of the curriculum. Children can learn to read by the end of the first semester of the first grade, when taught by using a phonics-based reading program. Reading, and later writing and math, are the cornerstones of all the later academic subjects taught in school.
The assumed cost of full-day kindergarten would be staggering. 25$ million the first year with the increase reaching as high as 300 to 400 million in just three or four years. Children five years old and younger don't need to be stuffed into a structured school situation five days a week. They need to be running and playing at home with their parents and families.
Instead of raising and/or squeezing taxes, our tax laws should be changed to support families so that the mother is not forced out into the labor market and children into day care and full-day kindergarten. All the AIMS scores in the world cannot justify preventing mothers from raising their own children. Do we really want government to be our children's babysitter and hear lines like this: Hi! I'm from the Department of Education, and I'm here to teach your children - just trust me!"
The "showdown" that your editorial talked about will surely come. It is between the Governor, those legislators that do not have an understanding of the proper roll of government and the unrepresented (except by a minority of concerned legislators) taxpayers.
~ Representative Karen Johnson

Paid for by Committee to Elect Karen Johnson